Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does "encaustic" mean?
A: Encaustic is a Greek word which means "to burn in".
Q: How do you paint with wax?
A: The wax is heated on a hot palette and applied with a brush onto the surface of a rigid support like a wooden panel.
Depending on the piece, I may apply one or more layers of clear and/or colored wax onto the panel. To get more detail back from underlying layers of wax, I can gently scrape off the unwanted wax with a variety of tools. I can also build up layers of wax when I want to add more texture or depth.
Each new layer of wax is fused to the layer beneath it by applying the heat from a heat gun directly over the surface of the piece.
Wax can even be painted onto (or pressed onto) organic papers like cotton or rice paper as is done with the monotype process. No fusing is required in this method since a minimal amount of wax is embedded into the paper at an already high temperature directly from the palette.
Q: How is the wax melted?
A: The wax is heated at 180 to 200 degrees directly on an artist's hot palette or in metal tins that are placed on a hot palette.
This is hot enough to work with but safe enough for reducing fumes.
Q: Why does each layer of wax have to be fused?
A: By fusing each layer with a heat source like a heat gun or torch, the newly applied layer and the existing layer of wax melt together and bond. This process helps to ensure the integrity of the artwork by reducing the risk of having the wax crack or chip in the future.
Q: How do I care for my encaustic piece?
A: Encaustic art is durable and generally low maintenance.
For removing dust and the blooming or dulling effect which may occur as the piece continues to cure, you may want to gently rub a soft, lint free cloth over the surface.
It's best to keep the artwork out of direct sunlight as well as away from any sources of high heat like a fireplace.
Extreme heat or cold should be avoided when displaying, shipping or storing encaustic works.
Q: Will the wax melt if I expose it to direct sunlight?
A: Encaustic paintings will not melt in direct sunlight though they may become soft and tacky to the touch. The melting point of this art is around 162°F so keeping the work in a temperature controlled environment is best.
Q: What are encaustic wax paints made from?
A: Encaustic paints are made up of pure beeswax, damar resin (tree sap indigenous to Malaysia) and vibrant colored, dry pigments.
Q: Can my encaustic artwork be set in a glass frame?
A: This is strongly not advised since the glass can work to amplify heat from the sun which can melt or soften the wax.
Encaustic art is engaging with its rich colors and textured qualities and is best when viewed without a glass barrier.
Q: Where can I read more about encaustic painting?
A: Embracing Encaustic: Learning to Paint with Beeswax by Linda and William Womack is a very resourceful book.